If this is your first visit, welcome to my blog of memories and observations. If you wish to be notified of new posts, enter an e-mail address above, and click on "Submit." As we move through a seventh year of this venture, I thank all who have made regular visits, as well as fellow bloggers who have found Stomp Off worth linking to. Doing this sort of thing is time-consuming, but I try to post fresh material at least once a week—let me know what you think. There is a Commentary option at the end of each post and a Guest Book can be reached by scrolling down and clicking on the quill image. I welcome your observations, reaction and/or suggestions in either spot—or both. As for blog content, the most current posts are on the home page, starting at the top. Earlier items are listed by month, year and title in the archive index. To zero in on a particular key word or subject, use the search option that is located directly beneath the blog's masthead. Most images can be enlarged with a mouse click, and there are links to some of my favorite blogs, etc. Since visitors have come from 150 countries, a translator with numerous languages is located below. You can at any time revert to English with a click at the top left of this page:

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Happy Birthday Hank Jones!

Today was Hank Jones' birthday! As wonderful a man as he is a pianist, I wish him many more years of good health and rich experiences. I used to see Hank a lot when I was with Riverside Records, almost 50 years ago, My camera caught him—albeit barely—last December, when my long-time friend and colleague, Ira Gitler celebrated his 80th. Also see in this photo is vivist Teddy Charles, Dexter's widow, Maxine Gordon, that great singer, Helen Merrill, and producer Mike Cuscuna.

My first record purchase...

Willie "The Lion" Smith, J. C. Higginbotham, Sidney de Paris, Zutty Singleton, Gene Brooks, Henry Goodwin, and Cecil Scott pose with Victoria Spivey, Alberta Hunter and Lucille Hegamin during the August 16, 1961 sessions that became Songs We Taught Your Mother. When I told Jimmy Rushing that I was going to do this album, he said he wanted to be there. I don't recall why Cliff Jackson isn't in Don Schlitten's photo, but he's on the album.

Do you remember buying your first record. It was probably an LP, but in my case it began with a 78 rpm disc—around 1947. I was living in Copenhagen with my mother and her third (but not last) husband. Denmark was slowly recovering from WWII—which I spent in New York and Iceland—but such things as coffee, tea and chocolate were still only available in look-alike ersatz form that tasted nothing like the real thing. Raw material for audio records was also in very short supply, so one was required to bring in an old record (even a broken one) for every new release on bought. To make matters worse, there was little to select from, even in the larger outlets, like the Magasin du Nord department store, and what was there seemed to have been pressed on cardboard. Armed with a couple of cracked 78s, I went there in search of anything by Vivaldi.

I had been interested in music since childhood, when I spent much time on the floor with a portable wind-up and some of my grandparents' records. They bore that in mind when they decided to give me their Victrola (actually a floor model HMV) and a stack of records. Some of these were classical, which I liked, but more were popular music of an era that even then seemed distant. I recall a few: Victor Sylvester's orchestra playing "A Chapel in the Moonlight," Greta Keller doing her cabaret thing, and a smooth Frenchman rendering "J'attendrai", but I wanted something more substantial.

Magasin du Nord had only a handful of records and since I already had the only classical release they could offer, Victor Schiøler playing Beethoven's Apassionata, I asked if they had Bessie Smith, a lady whose voice I had recently heard on the radio. No, but they did have a jazz record and they laid it on the counter. The Parlophone label read 1939 Super Rhythm Style Series, and that sounded intriguing, so I bought my first record: John Kirby's great little band playing "Dawn on the Desert" and "The Turf." I loved it.

About 13 years later, I told clarinetist Buster Bailey that he played on the first record I ever bought. Not so coincidentally, we were seated at The Turf, at 49th and Broadway, enjoying that establishment's famous cheesecake. The following week, I produced a Prestige session that included Mr. Bailey and many other great performers whose names I had worn off labels when the spring broke on my old HMV. (See photo at top). About that spring and the callouses on my finger—well, that's another story.


King Oliver

King Oliver and Lil Hardin in SF, 1921

A knowledgeable member of the Organissimo forum started a thread on King Oliver, one of the jazz pioneers about whom we don't know nearly enough. That said, I thought I'd quote an illuminating recollection by Lil Armstrong, who was a very dear friend of mine and with whom I collaborated on a book.

Sad to say, our project was shelved in 1971, when Lil passed away. She was performing at a memorial for Louis, a man she never stopped loving. Much more to come about Lil, whom I met in 1961 while producing Chicago sessions for the Riverside label. Anyway, here is her hitherto unpublished observation on Oliver.
"Joe appeared quiet and reserved, but he could keep you in stitches saying funny things under his breath. He sat next to the piano and, at intermission or between sets, would tell me jokes--nasty ones, clean ones, and some true ones. He got a big kick out of shocking me and my modesty with the nasty ones. I resented the nasty ones he told me, but said not a word to him about it—I’d just listen to everything he said, all the time learning about men and their ways. I soon found out that New Orleans men were as great in philandering as they were in music… Joe took me into his confidence, later I figured out why he had done so. Whereas he was a sensational cornetist, his musical knowledge was limited; when it became necessary for us to learn a new tune, Joe had me go over it with him alone. Consequently, when the band rehearsed together, he already knew it, and no one was the wiser. I didn’t mind at all, in fact, it made me feel important to be of real service to the King. I never failed to ask him anything I wanted to know about anything, he really ‘put my boots on'."

Here's more about Oliver.


Ray Bryant Trio 1972

It was his solo Prestige album, Alone with the Blues, that first hipped me to Ray Bryant, and made me an instant fan. We recently lost Ray, he passed away June 2, 2011, but he left a rich legacy of performances as well as pleasant memories in the minds of those who were fortunate enough to know him beyond nods and handshakes. Philadelphia was Ray's hometown, so when I played his recordings on my WHAT-FM show—as I often did—the phone inevitably lit up. We finally met, thanks to Elmer Snowden, who had been a mentor of sorts to Ray in his pre-spotlight days. In the interview that is a part of the attached video, you will hear Ray mention that Elmer was one of his early bosses. The gigs were small and local in those days, but Elmer looked out for Ray and his bass-playing brother, Tommy—if there was no piano, Ray became a bongo player. Elmer's career went back beyond the time when he introduced young Duke Ellington to New York, having formed a band that became the genesis for the first in a long succession of Duke' Ellington orchestras. I bring this up to point out that the so-called generation gap existed for neither of them.

I had the privilege of working with Ray on a few occasion, including a session I produced for my own, short-lived company with a band that had brother Tommy on bass, Jo Jones on drums, Elmer on guitar, and an odd pairing up front: Roy Eldridge and Bud Freeman. It eventually came out on Fontana and Black Lion. 

There were also a couple of aborted Snowden sessions that I produced at Riverside, but decided to scrap, because they were not what I was looking for. The idea was to make an album featuring Elmer's banjo, but even with excellent "side" men, it wasn't happening. These "experiments" eventually yielded the Harlem Banjo album (with Cliff Jackson's stride piano), and I think that combination did the trick. The earlier, aborted sessions had Ray's trio (with Jimmy Rowser and Mickey Roker) and two horns: Gene Sedric and Garvin Bushell (who played bassoon, among other reeds). I guess those tapes are collecting dust in some California vault.

My most memorable—well, at least must unusual— memory of being with Ray was when we went to Scranton, PA and gave a bunch of enthusiastic middle-aged jazz fans a lot of hot music on a very cold weekend afternoon. 

A long-haired yours truly and Afro-ed Ray
The attached video is one of  more than twenty half-hour shows that I hosted and co-produced for New Jersey State Television, a commendable channel that the current Republican Governor is tossing into the dumpster. This copy of the tape is not of stellar technical quality, but I don't have most of the Jazz Set shows, so I am  I am grateful to a good friend in California for sending it to me. It was obviously recorded off the air from the BET channel and I have no idea how or if they obtained permission to run it. BET (Black Entertainment Television) is consistently sloppy with its production work, so this tape bears the scars of mistreatment. I removed the commercials, which had been inserted willy nilly, so you will see a couple of jumps. It never ceases to amaze me that a channel dedicated to and aimed at a black audience almost routinely shows disregard for black artists.

I apologize for the disappearance of many links originally contained in this blog. It happened without warning when DivShare, the service I subscribed to, went out of business. There was no advance notice, no apology, etc. this was truly a shoddy business and its victim were many, including you, the visitor. I am slowly but surely attempting to restore these links, hoping that MediaFire proves to be more reliable and responsible. Here is the Ray Bryant Trio video—the quality is as I describe above, which leaves much to be desired.


Ray Bryant

Leroy Williams

Harold Dodson